Taking questions in a television debate after hitting a new low in opinion polls, Royal said: "No man with my professional background would have had his competence and legitimacy permanently called into question. It's much harder for a woman," Royal said, smiling as she answered questions from a 100-strong audience picked by a polling organization to be representative of the French people. Royal's campaign has been dogged by a series of gaffes, internal party spats and policy disputes. She criticized the media earlier this month for trying to harm her attempt to become France's first woman president. An Ipsos survey published earlier on Monday showed less than a quarter of the electorate intended to vote for her on April 22 in the first ballot of France's two-round election.
The survey was her worst since she won her party's nomination in November, beating more experienced male rivals. Over the past week, opinion polls have shown she would lag conservative rival Nicolas Sarkozy by some eight to 10 points if they faced each other in a second round of the election on May 6.
In Monday's TV appearance, Royal reiterated her policy plans, saying she would boost pensions that do not exceed the minimum wage, help low earners and create jobs for youngsters. "When I speak about boosting small pensions, this is part of a bigger project to make France a fairer place," Royal said.
Some critics have accused Royal of straying from traditional left-wing values, such as proposing to send young offenders to army camp. But on Monday, she also focused on social issues.
Royal was celebrated by many in the French media when she first emerged as a possible presidential contender a year ago. But her glamorous image and outsider status have become a liability as several slips have undermined her credibility, such as not knowing how many nuclear submarines France has.
A 100-point policy program, launched amid fanfare a week ago, failed to trigger the revival supporters hoped for and has instead been picked apart for funding details. Royal said she would announce a shakeup to her team on Thursday.
Analysts say disenchanted Socialist voters could turn their back on Royal and instead support centrist Francois Bayrou.
The Ipsos poll showed Bayrou scoring 16 percent, up from 14 percent, but still behind Royal at 23 percent and Sarkozy at 33 percent. A separate Ifop survey showed Bayrou would beat either Sarkozy or Royal if he made it into the decisive second round.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16